[ Directed by ]
[ Produced by ]
* TSUCHII Tomoo
* GOKA Kimitaka
* IKEDA Fumitsugu
* IWANAMI Yasuyuki
[ Cast ]
* MATSUDA Ryuhei MAJIME Mitsuya
* MIYAZAKI Aoi HAYASHI Kaguya
* ODAGIRI Joe NISHIOKA Masashi
[ Staff ]
* Original Story: MIURA Shion
* Screenplay: WATANABE Kensaku
* Cinematography: FUJISAWA Junichi
* Sound Recording: KATO Hirokazu
* Editor: FUSHIMA Shinichi
[ Production Company ]
TV TOKYO, SHOCHIKU, Asmik Ace, DENTSU, Kobunsha, ABC, TELEVISION OSAKA, YTV, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN COMPANY, film-makers, Little More
[ Distributor (Japan) ]
SHOCHIKU, Asmik Ace
[ Production Studio ]
Little More, film-makers
Release Date: April, 13th, 2013
Running Time: 133 min
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Feature
Screening Format: DCP,35mm
Subtitle: English, DCP, 35mm, HDCAM
[ Story ]
Drama about the passion of an editor who struggles to create a dictionary, as depicted over a fifteen-year period. Directed by Ishii Yuya, recipient of the Edward Yang New Talent Award for best new director at the Asian Film Awards in 2008. Based on 2012 Honya Taisho (bookseller award) winner Miura Shion’s novel of the same name. Selected as the representative from Japan for the 86th Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Publishing house salesman Majime (Matsuda Ryuhei) has an earnestness about him that sets him apart from his peers. But he has a discerning sensibility when it comes to language, which lands him in the dictionary editorial department. He ends up editing “The Great Passage,” a huge dictionary with 240,000 entries.
[ Official Site ]
[ Film Festivals, Awards ]
2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Japanese Submission
2013 Hong Kong International Film Festival, Gala Presentation
2013 Seattle International Film Festival, Asian Crossroads
2013 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, Vision Express
2013 Fantasia International Film Festival
2013 OzAsia Festival
2013 London Film Festival, Laugh
2013 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival
2014 Vancouver International Film Festival, Dragons & Tigers
2014 International Film Festival Rotterdam
Tokyo, 1995. Just when the Genbu Editions Department is about to start an innovative project, senior editor Araki (Kobayashi Kaoru) resigns to assist the sick wife, thus putting Matsumoto the department manager in tough trouble. Before leaving, Araki is looking for a substitute among sales team colleagues and failing to attempt the only remaining editor the “defiant” Nishioka (Odagiri Jō), finds nothing more than Majime (Matsuda Ryūhei) a graduate in semi-aphasic language disastrous in sales but spending time reading books and dictionaries.
The new project is a dictionary called The Great Passage (hence the English title) that wants to be the tool to “ferry” people to modernity in the 21st century, thus including the newest technical words (the explosion is beginning of PCs and has just got the first mobile phone) both neologisms and juvenile delays. Majime identifies himself progressively in the project and in turn, finds confidence in himself thus improving his relational skills. Meanwhile, she comes to live in the same house as Majime’s niece (Miyazaki Aoi) who moved to Tokyo to learn how to be a sushi teacher and Majime finds his strength to declare his love.
One day Nishioka learns from Remi (Ikewaki Chisuru), the girlfriend of the sales department, that the dictionary project is likely to be closed. General panic, then a cost-effective solution is found and the years run to the present, marked by the unwavering commitment of editors to reach the longing goal.
Ishii Yūya, one of the few truly new talents of contemporary Japanese cinema. While still being only thirty, seems to have come to a sort of artistic maturity that converges to movie films. Although the greater smoothness compared to initial hardships inevitably entails some concessions to the tastes of the general public. After rocket launch with success at the PIA Film Festival at just 24, the early movies portrayed unconventionally young people who were not integrated into the social mechanism that reminded to some extent, the protagonists of Yamashita Nobuhiro’s first films. Ishii then progressively began to combine visual talent, originality of the approach and delight of the packaging. So it was the case of Kawa no soko kara konnichi wa (Sawako Decides, 2010) and especially the remarkable Azemichi no dandy (A Man With Style, 2011). With Fune wo amu has reached a further stage of fullness, as confirmed by the various awards received as best film or best director (actor or non-star actress) as well as being the Japanese Oscar nominee.
Taken from a successful novel by Miura Shion, the film in its expressive livelihood in many things at the same time. It’s a training story. The very story of Majime, who is misunderstood with almost physical difficulty in speech finds a purpose in life and becomes a mature man who can interact with others and love a woman, is the materialization of the meaning of the dictionary in which he works. The great passage – “the dictionary of the one who lives the present” – in fact, in his aspiration to be the instrument to float in the sea of contemporary communication that is becoming more complex, reminds us that what matters is not the abstract knowledge of individual but their use in daily talk between people.
And precisely on this line, the film is a powerful hymn to the power of the word, a theme that I personally feel a lot in this era of the explosion and contemporary emptying of communication. At the beginning of the movie, Matsumoto emblematically says “In the beginning was the word” and then in a chat at the table, “Words are born, change and die. Understanding the meaning of words is to understand the ideas and feelings of others with precision. The word sea is vast beyond imagination, a dictionary is a boat floating in that sea. People try to cross that sea with the dictionary and look for the right words to express their feelings. “The same argument applies, metaphorically but not too much to Majime, who can not express his feelings and understand the feelings of others. The dictionary, the dedication to the dictionary, will be what will help you overcome the blockage of emotions.
More than anything, The Great Passage is a synthesis of some of the traditional Japanese values, starting with the absolute dedication to a project to continue with permanent identification with its goal. The primacy of group work on the individuality of individuals, rigorous precision (before the publication of the dictionary are made five drafts and when at a certain point they find a mistake they begin again from the beginning) perseverance at the boundaries of physical endurance, respect for the elderly.
Thanks to this stratified and interrelated themed wealth that Fune wo amu manages to be a great movie built on a small story. Among the reasons for success, most of the actors have the direction and performance. Of course the beginning, by Matsuda Ryūhei but it is above all Odagiri Jō to provide extraordinary performance in the part of the loser who plays the part of the extrovert who knows how to live. Around them two moves with remarkable balance and also a sense of comedy Kobayashi Kaoru.
A curiosity. The title is a word game that in the phrase “jiten wo amu” (compile a dictionary) replaces the word “jiten” (dictionary) with the word “rope” (boat), referring to The Great Passage intended as a Ferry Boat people through the difficulties of new languages.
PS. In the second part of the film, a new editorial from the Fashion Magazine department is added. At first he does not understand anything, and in fact he is somewhat embarrassed to be ended up in the middle of that group of marginalized people compared to other employees of the company. But then she will also identify with the company and become a member of the group in all respects. The actress who made her is Kuroki Haru, who for this part has been nominated for being the best actress not star of the year from Kinema Junpō. For another film, Yamada Chiisai Ouchi, then won the Best Actress Award at the Berlin Film Festival 2014. One can not but not notice the notable Kuroki resemblance with Tanaka Kinuyo as a young man, for example in Tōkyō no sister of Ozu (A Woman of Tokyo, 1933).